Crew Commentary

The Horror of COP28

Bob Leonard - Climate Risk Manager | David Houle - Futurist


Last Commentary we wrote about the hypocrisy and failure of the COP28 conference in Dubai, which ended last week. This column is about the absolute horror of this failure from a historical perspective and the failure of all 28 annual COPs.


28 annual conferences focused on global warming and the CO2 emissions that have triggered it. Last week we showed how they have, since 1995, been a total failure. The total amount of global, human CO2 emissions since 1995 has been about a third of all such emissions since 1750. They keep increasing every year.


This is the historical legacy that the United Nations has delivered to a future world that will be living, for the rest of this century, with severe weather events, crop failures and other catastrophes due to our climate crisis.


Here is what we know:


  • CO2 annual emissions continue to go up, with no end in sight. They have almost doubled since COP1 in 1995.
  • Between 150 and 200 species go extinct every day.
  • 2023 was the hottest year since measurements were started more than 100 years ago. Ice core research data shows this was the hottest year in 120,000 years.
  • Massive forest fires, droughts, floods, Cat 5 hurricanes, heat domes and other extreme weather events are increasing in frequency and severity every year.
  • The aggregate cost of all these global-warming related events is well into the trillions of dollars since the COP conferences started.
  • The fossil fuel industry, and all the politicians and companies that are beholden to them, have effectively delayed progress. The COP conferences have been nothing more than delay, delay, delay.



Our children and our grandchildren will ask us if the COP conferences were the best we could do. They will ask us why we didn’t do more to protect nature for them. They will wonder why we seemed not to care. Future historians will wonder why these conferences were tolerated and will cite them as one of the worst examples of collective human behavior in the history of the world.


Those who think COP28 was a success believe that because the COP28 summary report included the words “transitioning away from fossil fuels”, that constituted a victory. It was a victory for the fossil fuel industry. A real victory for Spaceship Earth and all the species who live here would have been enforceable commitments by nation states to phase out fossil fuels and transition to renewables.


The rest of the document is all about hope, not commitment. So no phasing out of fossil fuels and no commitment to do so.


Failure for now… yet at least one win. The cat is out of the bag. The whole world has seen a COP hosted by an oil sheikh in a petrostate. He is on the record as saying, “there is no science behind demands for the phase-out of fossil fuels.” And that doing so would, “take the world back into living in caves.”


The vast majority of people know that’s a bald-faced lie. We know, for certain, that fossil fuel executives and most political leaders are going to continue to stand in the way of progress to a zero carbon economy. Supply of fossil fuels will continue unabated. So we have to dramatically reduce demand… and we can.


We have the technologies. Renewable energy prices are competitive. We just need to do all we can to implement them, while voting out politicians in Big Oil’s pocket, and voting in champions of the transition.


We know we have to think, act and live as crew members on Spaceship Earth.